Video reading, the abandonment of print media, the crisis of classic publishing and newspapers: the problems of printing presses do not describe a simple crisis in the sector, but much more alarming paradigm shift. And there is no turning back from paradigm shifts.
It is therefore necessary to apply new industrial strategies, composed of automation, organization lean, technological update (and in particular IT), new polarizations of a business much more sensitive to the diversification of communication.
Problems with printing houses: a look at the UK
Contemporaneity presents a fact: the crisis of the typographical product is a crisis of the client.
On the one hand, budgets have largely been diverted to online; on the other hand, the publishing groups themselves derive most of their revenues from less and less paper-related assets.
The survival of the sector, the solution to the problems of printers passes through understanding of numbers: the turnover, in the most developed countries, was reduced by about 40%, and this does not only concern Italy.
In Great Britain the total turnover has gone from 15 billion pounds to about 10 now, with an obvious one impact on employment: in 2001 the British printing industry had around 200,000 employees, now there are less than 120,000 (numbers from BPIF, the British Printing Industries Federation).
He confirms it Roy Kingston, CEO of Wyndeham, one of the UK's largest printers: Wyndeham is, to frame the size, the printer that prints 'The Economist' and 'Men's Health' magazine.
"This plant employed 350 people, but today printing requires almost no personnel: now just 114 technicians work here, albeit with a workload more than doubled. In the 1990s we had three presses and were throwing out 20,000 32-page copies in one hour; we now make 60,000 copies of equal thickness with just two machines".
The advantage of the Italians
The health of the players, in other European countries, is not better: on the contrary, Italian printers would even have an advantage from the excellent quality of the product combined with a significantly lower labor cost, if parameterized on the rest of the European market; but the paradigm shift we mentioned above has moved the axis even further east, with China becoming the largest print market in the world in 2014, surpassing the USA (source: Smithers Pira), while India entered the top 5 of world markets this year, because printing in Asia costs extraordinarily Less.
In short, what has been lost in terms of market share will largely not be recovered.
Robert G. Picard, former professor of media economics at Oxford University and Harvard University, says: "The Italians offer a very high quality, but also a lower price due to the lower cost of labor.
And Germany and the Scandinavian countries have a very efficient printing industry, which eliminates some of the pricing problems.
So aside from the things that are urgent, like magazines, that need to be done within the region, the best deal could be found outside your borders.".
After all, the same technology that has increased the problems of printing presses gives the solutions to get out of them. The first point to converge on is an update that many printing industrialists have already gone through, those industrial laser printers that make it possible to make the production of highly customized small batches quick and convenient.
Furthermore, extremely precise and deeply automated machines, ready for offset printing and who work with lithographic plates created from digital files.
But if the crisis, as we said at the beginning, is a client crisis, opening up to new areas will allow companies in the sector to breathe.
There are those who choose to go beyond publishing, facing an unexplored world made up of labels and packaging: not a strange idea, as these are two exquisitely different sectors "physical”, Where a digital counterpart cannot exist. Also Robert G. Picard glosses: "On closer inspection, we all buy things contained in cardboard boxes or jars that bear some kind of label: this is where the printing industry can really expand its business".
Customization, offset and interconnection
There are those who have structured extremely disintermediated typography-customer communication channels, to facilitate work processes: this is the case of the English maxi-typography Wyndeham, which has developed a software for the management of printing and online delivery of the material to be printed.
But that's not all: Wyndeham has set up a division to develop print (commercial and otherwise) in all directions, including PCs, smartphones and iPads.
In this way the printed graphic product "will talk" with all contemporary devices.
Some interesting ideas can be drawn from this last approach to tackle the problems of typographies: the interconnection between offline and online. If it is true that many have now diverted attention and finances to the digital world, paper has the characteristic of remaining, of not being transient.
Thanks to the new machinery it is possible to realize customized editions of any publication, different bindings and special colors: a product with a very high added value.
An example: at the release of the film dedicated to Godzilla, the film monthly Empire (printed by Wyndeham) was published in a special king-size format, almost a third larger than the usual publication. The number was not only successfully received, but thanks to customization has become a collector's item.
Dave Eggers (writer, editor and founder of McSweeney's, an influential literary magazine) agrees on doing collaborate online and print world: "It may be an unorthodox opinion, but the two universes should coexist. Of course, they must do different things: in order to survive, the newspaper and the physical book must distinguish themselves from the web, and in particular the physical forms of the written word must turn into a clear, different experience.".
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It echoes Sara Cremer, from the communication agency Redwood (which has Jaguar-Land Rover and Barclays in its portfolio): “Printing does certain things very well: it gives a sense of reward, almost luxury, to spend time on the printed page. And it is a sensation, an experience that is priceless. The online world thrives on immediacy and sharing, and that is something equally precious, but different. The point, however, is another: the two channels work better if created and used together, but you need consistency in the contents and their quality. Without quality content, everything becomes a waste of money ".
As if to say: it is useless to blame the printers if an ugly product does not sell - a less self-absorbing lesson than it seems, an incentive to commit (at all levels) to the quality of the final product.